Aura stared in horror at the body of Knight Wind in front of her. She slowly reached out her hooves and started to shake him. “Knight? Knight?” No matter how many times she called out, he wouldn’t get up, or turn towards her, or even make any kind of noise. He just lay there, perfectly still, his eyes shut tightly, his breathing…Gone.
“No…Neon, Iris, and now…” Aura raised her hooves and buried her face in them. “Why? Why is this happening? Is it…Is it all my fault? All I wanted was…I just wanted to make everyone happy…Why did it turn out like this?”
Aura sat there for what felt like hours, in truth only a minute or two, before she heard the sounds of changeling guards approaching.
“We found Iris!”
“Knight must be nearby! Keep searching!”
“Remember! Kill Aura on sight!”
Aura gasped and rose to her hooves. She looked off into the distance with a frightened look on her face, breathing heavily as fear ran through her body. Finally, she heard hoofsteps closing in on her, and her flight instincts kicked in, causing her to turn tail and run, as fast as her little body would allow her to.
“Sir! Over here!”
Razor Tooth approached the guard that called out to him, and grinned widely as he saw Knight’s corpse lying on the ground. “Excellent. Thought it’s too bad we couldn’t take him alive, but it’ll have to do. Now, what about the Princess?”
“She seems to have escaped, sir,” the guard reported, pointing a hoof at a trail of small hoofprints that lead into the forest. “Our forces followed the tracks, but they stopped at a cliff top. Most likely, she took to the sky.”
Razor sighed and shook his head. “Such a pity. But, no matter. Her knights are dead. I doubt she’ll last much longer.”
“Don’t underestimate my sister.” Razor and the guard next to him immediately jumped to attention, as they turned around to face their Prince. “At ease.”
“Sir,” Razor started, returning to his casual stance. “With respect, this forest is riddled with all kinds of dangers, and in that direction…Well, if she keeps moving that way, she’ll wind up in Equestria. There’s no way she’ll survive for long.”
“Yet, there’s still a chance,” Odysseus said. “I don’t deal in chance. If she’s found to be alive and well, then our entire plan will be foiled…And we will suffer the ultimate penalty for our crimes.” Razor gulped as Odysseus reminded him of the consequences of failure. “Don’t worry, Razor. I’ve already taken this eventuality into account, and have prepared a suitable assassin to track down and kill her.”
“May I ask who, sir?”
“You’ll find out, soon enough.”
Aura poked her head out of her hiding spot under a rather large tree, holding out her hoof to check if it was still raining. It hadn’t stopped completely, but it slowed down to a very light drizzle, and since she was sure her pursuers were still chasing her, she decided to keep moving.
She couldn’t tell for sure, but she was sure that at least a day had passed since she had fled from the castle. She only stopped a few times to take a rest, who to hide when she thought the guards had caught up to her. She hadn’t eaten anything since leaving the castle, and was finding it hard not to focus on her increasing hunger.
She had reached the edge of the forest, and found herself at the entrance to the Border Desert, the desert that was split down the middle. Half of it belonged to the changeling kingdom, and the other half belonged to Equestria.
She gulped as she faced the vast desert in front of her, and for a moment contemplated simply giving up. Her mother wanted her dead. Her knights were dead. There was nowhere left for the young changeling to go. No reason left for her to keep moving forward.
Knight’s final words rang in Aura’s ears, and her survival instincts flared up once again. She slowly raised a hoof, and lowered it in front of her, taking her first step into the desert. “Knight…I don’t know what to do…” She took another step, and then started to gradually pick up her pace, making her way through the desert.
Razor Tooth saluted Queen Chrysalis as she entered the castle throne room. It had been three days since Aura had fled the castle, and their Queen had just returned from her business in the dragon kingdom.
Chrysalis raised an eyebrow quizzically at the General’s presence in her throne room. Next to her, her Advisor, Metamorphose, or “Meta” for short, tag along closely to her Queen, also confused by Razor Tooth’s presence.
“My Queen, welcome back,” Razor Tooth said, lowering his salute as she waved her hoof. “I trust you had a good trip?”
“Cut the formalities,” Chrysalis ordered, a hint of annoyance in her voice. “I’m tired, and wish to rest before meeting with griffon ambassador. So make whatever business you have here short.”
“Very well, my Queen…”
Razor Tooth made his report to his Queen, her eyes growing wide with horror and disbelief.
“Razor Tooth…If this is a joke, I’m going to have you court-martialled…” Razor Tooth shook his head, his head hanging low as he remained silent. “My daughter…Is dead?”
“It can’t be…” Meta said, dropping the notepad she was carrying in her magic as the news sunk into her skin. “Princess Aura…H-How did it happen?”
“It was that Equestrian, Knight Wind,” Razor Tooth answered. Chrysalis’ look of horror turned to one of anger, and despair. “It turns out he was a spy, and his aim was to assassinate the Queen. He slipped up, and we caught him, but in an attempt to flee, he…”
Chrysalis stomped her forehooves on the ground, starling Meta and Razor. “Bring him to me!” she shouted, her eyes burning with rage. “Bring him to me RIGHT NOW!”
“Your Highness, please calm down,” Razor asked, fear running through his body as she shot him a deadly glare. “Knight and his accomplices are already dead.”
“Accomplices?” Meta asked.
Razor nodded his head. “Iris and Neon. Both of them have been in league with him for the past few years.” Chrysalis’ anger rose higher at this news. “They made a deal with Equestria. Apparently, Equestria promised them safety in their Country if they helped him. Unfortunately, Sir Nitros was killed, trying to protect the Princess…”
The room remained silent for a few minutes. Chrysalis stared ahead into space, her emotions a mixture of anger, hatred, and despair. Eventually, her rage died down, and tears started to fall down her face. Razor Tooth turned around so as the Queen allowed herself a moment of weakness, bringing her hooves to her face as she sobbed into them as silently as she could.
After a few minutes of crying, Chrysalis lowered her hooves, and called out to Razor Tooth, who turned to face her. “How long until we can prepare our forces?” Chrysalis asked.
“Three days, my Queen.” She looked at him with a curious look, while he simply looked back with a frown. “Prince Odysseus and Prince Alexander are already aware of Princess Aura’s death. We have already started to make arrangements, my Queen.”
Chrysalis nodded, and then turned to her Advisor. “Meta, I want you to make an announcement to the entire kingdom.” Meta nodded, and picked up her notepad with her magic. She picked up the quill resting on her ear, and pressed it against the pad. “In three days time, we shall hold a memorial service for Aura…And then, we shall have our revenge.”
Meta looked up from the notepad and at her Queen, with a worried look on her face. “My Queen, does that mean-”
“Yes,” Chrysalis interrupted. “Three days from now, we declare war on Equestria.”
Inwardly, Odysseus rejoiced at the announcement that was being spread throughout the kingdom. Outwardly, he maintained a calm, neutral expression, casually greeting his servants as he passed by them in the corridor.
When he reached his bed chamber, he requested his servants to leave him alone. Razor followed him inside, and once the door was closed, Odysseus finally let out the laughter that he was forced to hold back.
“Everything’s going as planned, huh?” Razor asked, taking out a bottle of wine from a nearby cabinet. “Well, except for Aura still being alive, that is.”
“A minor mishap,” Odysseus said. “No plan is perfect. But this won’t change things too much. All that matters is that she doesn’t make contact with the changeling kingdom.”
“Given that she thinks the Queen ordered her death, I doubt she’d return.”
“Indeed. The only danger is if the Queen finds her on her own…Which might happen when she attacks Equestria. Not very likely, but it wouldn’t hurt to lower the chances to zero.”
Razor poured the wine into two glasses, and levitated one over to Odysseus, who took it into his magic. “Is that why you enlisted Shark to hunt her down? What if someone notices him missing?”
Odysseus chuckled softly, and then took a sip of his wine. “Everyone will be too focused on the upcoming memorial service and the war. Even if they do notice somehow, we can just feign ignorance, and pretend to open an investigation.”
“I see…As expected, Odysseus, you are truly the only one worthy of being our ruler.”
Odysseus shot a glare at Razor, causing him to flinch and almost drop his glass in terror. “My mother is a great leader,” he said. He then turned back to his glass and took another sip. “It’s unfortunate, but for the good of the kingdom, I will have to use her…And sacrifice her.”
Razor didn’t dare to open his mouth this time, and instead just nodded his head silently, before taking a sip of his wine.
“Three days, mother…Enjoy your freedom while it lasts.” A dark grin crossed Odysseus’ face, which sent another wave of fear throughout Razor’s body. Odysseus turned to his knight, and once their eyes met, Razor felt his entire body freeze up. “Summon Alexander. I wish to speak with him.”
Razor remained silent, and completely frozen, until Odysseus turned away. As if being released by some kind of bondage, Razor felt his body suddenly relax and fall limp, and was able to find his voice once again. He quickly straightened up and saluted to his Prince. “Y-Yes, my lord.”
If Aura wasn’t tired and starving from three days of continuous walking, she would have rejoiced at the sight of a stream in front of her. It had been a full day since she last passed by a fresh water source, and she was starting to feel the effects of walking many miles without anything to drink.
She examined the water closely. She couldn’t tell for sure, since her vision was blurry, but the water seemed clean enough to drink. Even if it wasn’t, by this point, she was desperate. She lowered her head into the stream and began drinking.
To the Princess who had just passed through a forest of death, a barren wasteland desert, and was now walking through fields in enemy territory, this one moment right now felt like heaven to her. The water felt so refreshing, and after she had collapsed to the ground on her stomach, she found it hard to get up again. She wanted to lay there and go to sleep, and hopefully, this would all turn out to be one long nightmare.
“Mommy, are we there yet?”
Aura quickly raised her head and look around. In the distance, she could make out two blurry shapes up ahead of her. As she narrowed her eyes and focused on them, she could just about see the two ponies walking down the nearby dirt road. Two Unicorns, both with green hair, walking side-by-side. One was a mare, the other a filly.
She could see the filly’s golden eyes as she passed by a lantern on the road, and flinched when she noticed the mare looking in Aura’s direction. Afraid she might have been seen, Aura quickly rushed off into the bush sitting next to her.
Daring to poke her head out of the bush, she could see the two ponies were continuing to walk along the road. Apparently, they hadn’t noticed Aura. Aura let out a relieved sigh, and walked out of the bush. Aura sat down on her haunches as she started to think of her next move.
Although she had continued moving because of Knight’s words, the further she walked, the more she realised how hopeless it all was. If she stayed in Equestria, she would be arrested as an enemy spy. If she returned home, she would be killed. If she fled to another Country, assuming she even made it there alive, if they were an ally with the changeling kingdom, or held neutrality towards them, they would likely hand Aura over if she were found out, to maintain good standing with the changelings.
Aura once again started to lose hope. Tears would have been rolling down her face right now, if she had enough water in her body to spare. She felt the cold wing against her skin, and decided that she’d rather think about her next move somewhere warm. Rising to her hooves, Aura scanned the area, and then began moving against the flow of the stream, not having any better plans in mind.
After a few minutes of walking, Aura began to hear someone singing nearby. Out of curiosity, Aura moved closer to the sound, keeping herself hidden behind a nearby bush. She poked her head out from the bush, and saw a blue mare washing what appeared to be a purple cloak. Aura’s ears dropped as she listened to the mare’s singing. It was so horrible that she began to cringe, and was thankful when the mare finally stopped.
However, she panicked when the mare walked over to her campfire, and Aura was afraid she would be caught. She quickly jumped back into the bush, which caused it to shake. Aura froze, and just hoped that she hadn’t been noticed.
“Who’s there? Show yourself!”
Aura didn’t move, and she held her breath tight. ‘Maybe if I don’t move, she’ll think it was just her imagination…’
“Trixie demands your reveal yourself, right now!”
Aura decided that it was hopeless. This mare was adamant that someone was hiding, and probably would have investigated if Aura remained silent. On the other hoof, if she tried to run away, she wouldn’t get far in her current state.
Aura decided there was only one course of action left for her to take. Closing her eyes, Aura concentrated her powers of shape shifting, and began to take the form of the filly that she saw earlier. Taking a deep breath, Aura stood up once again, and stepped out of the bushes, revealing herself to the blue mare.
“Brother! You can’t be serious!”
Odysseus raised his head from his book and looked over at his older sister, who had just burst into his room, clearly angry about something.
“Sister, it’s rude to enter someone’s room without knocking first.”
Victoria stomped closer to Odysseus, grinding her teeth as she glared at him. “Why!? Why is Aura’s memorial service on the same day we declare war!?”
Odysseus looked confused at his sister’s concerns. “Because mother ordered it. And personally, I agree with her. It will be a nice way to show our departed sister that we care deeply for her.”
“That’s bullshit!” she shouted as she stomped her forehooves on the ground, shaking the entire room. “I’d have thought that you of all changelings would have protested to this as much as me! You know our sister never wished for war with anyone! Why in Tartarus would you think declaring war on her funeral day would make her happy!?”
Odysseus sighed, and lowered his book, making sure to place a bookmark on the page he was currently on. He turned to his sister with a frown on his face. “You’re right. I did consider that. But…The fact is, if we wait for too long, the Equestrians might attack us. And I don’t want our sister’s death to be the cause of our kingdom’s downfall. I don’t think anyone would want that.”
“Furthermore,” Odysseus interrupted. “Our sister may have wanted peace, but she also wanted to keep living. To grow up with us, and share her happiness across our kingdom. We don’t always get what we want.” Odysseus rose to his hooves and approached his sister. “It’s sad, I know. But nothing we do now will change the fact that Aura is dead, and that an international conflict will surely erupt from this.”
Odysseus placed a hoof on his sister’s shoulder, and smiled warmly at her. “For now, all we can do is try and be strong. We must see her off with a smile, and bravely push through this terrible chapter in our lives.
“For that reason, sister, I requested the two of us oversee arrangements for her memorial service. Alexander and the Queen will handle the military preparations.”
Victoria lowered her head, grinding her teeth again as she stared at the floor. Finally, she rose her head and looked at her brother, and then shook her head. “No, brother. I insist on working on military preparations alongside mother. I want to avenge Aura, no matter what.”
“Victoria,” Odysseus said, a stern look on his face. “You were by far the closest to our sister. I think it would mean a lot to her if you were in charge of her send off.” He paused for a moment, and then continued. “And besides, I can’t handle this without you.” She raised her head in surprise, and Odysseus turned away to hide the redness forming on his face. “I’m…No good at things like this…I need you by my side.”
“But…You’ve arranged memorial services before, haven’t you?”
“…I mean death.” Silence passed between them, and Odysseus’ body started shaking. “The truth is, I’m trying to act strong, so that I can maintain an air of superiority around my subjects…But…I don’t know how much longer I can last…” Odysseus turned to his sister with big, pleading eyes. “Please, sister…I need you by my side…”
Victoria’s face feel, and she pulled her younger brother into a warm hug. “Ok, brother. I’ll stay by your side, and help you prepare our sister’s funeral.”
“Thank you, sister.” A knock at the door caused the two to separate the hug, and Odysseus turned to the still open door to see Alexander, grinning at the two siblings. “Big brother…”
“So, you do have a weak point,” he said, walking towards the two. “No wonder you avoid the battlefield so much. Ya big softie.”
Odysseus turned his head away in embarrassment, and Victoria narrowed her eyes at Alexander. “Well, I guess he has to be soft, to rival your hard head.”
“Ouch. Low blow, sis,” Alexander laughed. “Anyway, you wanted ta see me, bro?”
Odysseus nodded, and asked his sister to leave them be. She obeyed, and just as she left, Odysseus called out to her once more. “Sister, meet me tomorrow morning at 07:00. We’ll begin planning then.”
Victoria nodded, and then closed the door, leaving the two brothers alone. “So? What do ya want? It better be important. I was the middle of preparing battle strategies.”
Odysseus smiled at his older brother. “Yes, actually, that’s what I wanted to talk to you about…Well, that, and I also wanted to ask you to write a few things for sister’s memorial service.”
“Huh? I’ll be there myself, y’know? Why do I need ta write things down?”
“No, it’s for the public memorial service,” Odysseus answered, walking over to a nearby cabinet. “The one we’ll be attending will be a quick one, to send her off as we march towards the battlefield. The public one will be held afterwards, and will be much longer. Since you won’t be attending that one, I wanted to get some words from you to share with everyone.”
“And ya had ta ask me now?”
“I’ll be busy over the next few days. As will you. Now is really the best time.” Odysseus looked through his collection of wine bottles, but couldn’t find the one he wanted. “I’ll be right back. I’m going to fetch a special wine I had been saving for Aura’s coming of age ceremony…Guess there’s not much point in saving it now…”
Alexander nodded as he watched Odysseus walk towards his door, and leave the room. Alexander, never one to just stand around doing nothing, decided to explore his younger brother’s room. He found his brother’s work desk, and noticed that the top draw was the only one that was locked, and that the key wasn’t anywhere on the table.
A smirk passed Alexander’s face. “Heh, I used ta hide pornos in the top draw. I wonder if Odysseus is doin’ the same?” Alexander examined the work desk, and noticed a framed picture of him and his siblings, all together in a group, smiling at the camera. It was taken three years ago, about the same time Knight Wind was found. Anger boiled inside of Alexander as he remembered how Knight was the one to kill his sister, but he pushed it to one side. Right now, he was more curious to see how similar he and his brother were.
He lifted the picture, and looked behind it. You wouldn’t notice it unless you were looking for it, but there was a small piece of card on the back the picture. “Heh, seems we’re not so different after all, brother.” Alexander removed the card, and found a small key behind it.
Alexander checked behind him, and then turned back to the desk, grinning as he opened the top draw. Inside was a stack of papers, the top one seemingly a blank piece. “Eh? Just work stuff? How boring…” Alexander lifted the top paper, examined both sides, and found that it was indeed blank. However, before putting it back, he felt something strange.
It was a familiar feeling to Alexander. He called it his “sixth sense”, and although it didn’t make much, whenever something strange was about to happen, or was already happening, he would get these strange signals throughout his body. It was different depending on what was going to happen. For example, if something was about to fall, it would be a different signal than if a fire was about to break out.
No one understood how it worked, but after encountering it for themselves, no one would keep questioning it for long. They just sort of accepted that he had some supernatural ability or something, that, for now, at least, exceeded all scientific reasoning.
This signal that Alexander was getting told him to take the paper. To take it, and not let Odysseus know. Basically, that this paper was very, very important, and that Odysseus was hiding something.
Alexander swallowed hard, turned back towards the door, and then back to the desk again. He stowed the paper away into his armour, closed and locked the draw, and hid the key back where he had found it. Just as he finished putting the picture back, the door behind him opened, startling his and causing him to spin around quickly.
“…Brother? What are you doing?”
“Oh, uh, I was just…” Alexander looked back at the desk, and then back to Odysseus. “T-This picture. It’s a nice picture, isn’t it? It made me feel…A little nostalgic. That’s all.”
Odysseus narrowed his eyes, examining Alexander closely. ‘Strange…’ Odysseus walked closer to his sibling, cautiously, and placed the wine bottle he had brought with him down on the table in the centre of the room. “And that’s all you were doing?”
“O-Of course!” Alexander shouted. He quickly composed himself, and cleared his throat. ‘Shit, that won’t work on him. He’s too good at seeing through lies…Gotta try somethin’ else.’
Odysseus didn’t take his eyes of Alexander as he opened the bottle of wine, and began pouring some wine into Alexander’s glass.
“Ah, what the hell!?” Odysseus jumped slightly, and almost spilled the win onto the table. He placed the bottle down as his brother approached him, wrapping a foreleg around his shoulder. “We’re both guys here! C’mon, admit it, you got some dirty mags in that draw there, haven’t ya?”
Odysseus’ eyes widened, and his face reddened, as he struggled against his older brother’s headlock. “W-What are you talking about!? There’re only work documents in there! I’m not you!”
“Really?” Alexander asked, in an unconvinced tone. “Well, just give it a few more years…” He released his younger brother, and sat down on Odysseus’ favourite chair. “Anyway, let’s get this over with! Like I said, I was in the middle of battle preparations!”
Odysseus stared at his brother with a strange look on his face. ‘That’s what he was doing? Trying to find dirty magazines?…Well, I shouldn’t expect anything more from an oaf like him. And to think I was feeling threatened for a moment.’ Odysseus continued filling the glasses, and then took the seat opposite of Alexander. ‘The only two who I should worry about are Victoria and Aura…And I’ve already made arrangements to keep Victoria from causing any trouble.’
Aura woke up with a start. She hadn’t sleep for three whole days, since the fear of being caught by pursuers was forcing her to stay awake, and the first dream she had after returning to the realm of sleep after such a long time was, of course, a nightmare.
In it, she was enjoying a nice game of volleyball with her siblings. It was the sisters versus the brothers and, as always, everyone did their best to make sure Aura was involved, practically passing the ball to her intentionally. She knew this, and was happy that they cared about her so much, but couldn’t help feeling like they were looking down on her by going so easy on her.
After receiving a pass from Odysseus, she felt a sharp pain from behind. Looking back, she saw her four siblings, and her mother, all looking at her with hate filled eyes, swords at the ready, as they closed in on her, attempting to cut her down. The rest of the nightmare consisted of her running away from them, being told by each of her siblings how much she was despised, and that she would never be welcome in their land again.
Remembering the terrible dream brought tears to her eyes, and she spent the next few minutes holding her face in her hooves, letting out a waterfall of tears.
When she was finished crying, she remembered where she was. It was the trailer of the blue mare who had found her, although the blue mare didn’t seem to be around at this point. Aura looked to her right, and saw a mirror on a dresser. She realised that she was still disguised as a filly, and undid the disguise for a moment, revealing her true form.
“Mother…Do you truly hate me now? Am I forced to remain here, living as one of the ponies you also despise?”
She heard a creak outside, and realised that someone was coming. Most likely the blue mare from before. Aura quickly reapplied her disguise, and not a moment too soon, as the door opened shortly after she had finished. It was indeed the blue mare at the door, and she was carrying in her magic a small bag, which she opened up on the bed.
Two apples and a small bottle of water fell out of the bag. The mare turned to the filly. “Here’s your dinner,” she said, walking over to her dresser and levitating a brush. “It’s not much, since Trixie’s short on supplies, but it will have to do.”
Aura looked over at the apples, not sure if she should accept them or not. A growl in her stomach made up her mind for her, and she used her magic to levitate one of the two pieces of fruit to her mouth.
“By the way, what’s your name?” Trixie asked as she brushed her mane. “Trixie doesn’t want to just call you “little one”. Surely you must have a proper name.”
Aura turned to Trixie and bowed politely. “Princess Aura, the third Pri-” Aura slammed her hooves to her mouth. She had acted out of habit, and almost gave herself away. “Uh, I mean, just Aura…”
Trixie didn’t turned around, but instead, just continued brushing her mane. “Trixie sees…Don’t worry, Aura. Trixie used to get swept up in games of pretend, too.”
Aura tilted her head in confusion, and then realised that Trixie must have thought Aura was just playing pretend when she referred to herself as “Princess Aura”. Aura sighed a sigh of relief, and went back to eating her apples. She didn’t notice the grin plastered on Trixie’s face, which could be seen through her reflection on the mirror.